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Cadet Leader’s Best Practices

Cadet Leader’s Best Practices

By SSgt Ray Lukic, CAP
Deputy Commander for Cadets
Polaris Composite Squadron

January 2020

Cadet leaders,

This guide was written in order to orient you with your new duties and guide you towards success. Senior Members will be mostly hands off allowing you to practice and experiment with various leadership styles. Feel free to deviate as you see fit, however, if issues arise, reevaluate your options, review this guide, and consult a Cadet Program senior members.

Cadet Commander and Deputy Cadet Commander

The cadet commander and their deputy are responsible for the success or failure of the cadet program, their staff, planning, and implementing of taskings.

The cadet commander should focus on the strategic goals (big picture), meaning that they must focus on the next 3-6 goals and events.

No later than 2 weeks of assuming command, the 6-month plan and organizational chart should be finalized and emailed out to Cadet Programs Senior Members, cadets, and parents.


Commander’s orders and guidance given should be plain, simple, and short. They should state what needs to be done (called commander’s intent), but not how. Leave the actual tactical planning (weekly meetings) to be done by your cadet NCO.

Orders should be given verbally, then followed up in writing to clarify any potential misunderstandings. Once the order is given, a read back response should be given back to you in order to ensure that the cadet understood your instructions.

The commander should not be involved with planning details of the meetings as it removes the subordinate’s ownership of the plan. If your NCOs organize and implement the plan, they will be more invested in its success.  Only intercede if required.

The commander’s goal as a leader is to train your replacements. This may seem counter intuitive, but what you are doing is growing your subordinates into next leaders. This will free you up later to take on your future roles at a higher echelon, and to have a more competent and capable staff.

“Do, delegate, delete.”

- General David Goldfein,

USAF Chief of Staff


Do (your job and what is within your scope)

Delegate (the tasks that your staff can do, so that they can learn and grow)

Delete (don’t sweat the small stuff, but maintain the standards)

Cadet Staff


The cadet staff is responsible for their areas assigned (AE, ES, PT, and Blues meeting). Be familiar with your job and with the Cadet Staff Handbook, CAPP 60-31.

Similar to the cadet commander and deputy, the cadet staff must also be aware of the big picture, but operate on a more tactical level, such as planning for the meetings they are responsible for.

For example, the ES NCO should formulate a plan for the next 6 months (6 meetings, big picture perspective) and figure out which tasks to train using the GTM/UDF Guide at each meeting (tactical level), so that the cadets are better qualified and closer to achieving their GTM Badge.

Proper Meeting Planning

In order to ensure success, proper planning must be done in advance. The more complex the event, with multiple groups involved, an earlier start will be required. If the event is involving multiple squadrons or for wing events, perhaps two month advance notice is prudent.

To keep parents happy and to ensure maximum participation, a minimum of a two week advance notice is required if there is a meeting outside the typical Tuesday meeting, such as a Color Guard event, car wash fundraisers...

Weekly Emails

Ideally, the cadet leading the meeting will draft the email by Thursday and have it reviewed by the cadet commander by Friday. Final approval will be by a senior member. The goal is to send the email to cadets and parents by Saturday afternoon, so that the families can plan for the event and their own schedules around it.

Any CAP related communication must be conducted via email.

Any email must include at least one Senior Member in the “CC:”

All emails being sent to cadets and families must be approved by a Senior Member.

Emails sent should not be sent to recipients using “BCC:”








Start the email draft

Email draft reviewed

Email draft approved

email sent to cadets and parents

Prepare for the meeting

Continue preparing

Run the meeting

But wait, there is more...

Two more leadership tips!

Tip #1 - Laws of Combat*:

This can also be applied to leadership principles:

  • Cover and Move
  • Simple
  • Prioritize and Execute
  • Decentralized Command

Cover and move - this is first as it the root of all other tactics and it is teamwork. Two teams working together, covering and moving for each other, don’t just double their effectiveness; they double their impact and capability

Simple - everyone on the team must understand the goal and the commander’s intent. It must be clear, so that it can be comprehended by everyone, up and down the chain of command.

Prioritize and execute - do the most impactful task or biggest problem must be addressed first, then next, and so on until everything is handled.

Decentralized Command - for this to work, three previous laws must be followed (teamwork, commander’s intent, and prioritization). And everyone must step up and lead.

* adapted from Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink

Tip #2 - What to do when you don’t know what to do?

Look at your options and make the slightest move in the direction you think is the best choice. Then, look at your new options and make another move in the direction you think is best. Repeat this until you have successfully achieved your goal.

This is called an OODA loop. The quicker you can do this back to back (continually), you will outmaneuver and win over your opponent or your project.


Good luck cadets!


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